After a two-month break, racing returned to Bangor-On-Dee once again, this time for the flagship Ladies Day event on Friday 29th July 2022. With a bumper eight-race card, the feature of which at 3:45pm in the Genesis Wealth Management Handicap Chase, along with 5 previous course winners set to run, the 4,000+ fans in attendance had plenty to look forward to. Weather conditions remained dry and cloudy throughout the day, with ground conditions remaining Good all over.
Race 1 – R W Hough & Sons Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle (Div. I) (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 7f)
The first race of the day saw a stylish winner in the shape of Fine By Me, who was given a well-timed ride to record a smooth success at odds of 11/4, beating the 13/8F Bird On The Wire into second place by 1 ¾ lengths at the line. Setting the pace at the head of affairs for much of the contest, Bird On The Wire made most alongside Robeam, with a couple of lengths back to Espinator and Fine By Me in the early stages. Prone to the odd mistake throughout, Bird On The Wire certainly gave rider Theo Gillard a scare or two over his obstacles, but their partnership remained in-tact at the front of the pack until the runners made their way to the third-last flight of hurdles. As they did so, Robeam produced a stern-looking challenge to the outside of the leader, all the while Fine By Me remained poised in behind, travelling strongly in third place. Having waited patiently behind the leaders throughout the race, Finn Lambert made his move aboard Fine By Me at the second-last, where a bold leap down the outside of Bird On The Wire soon projected the pair into the lead. With another strong jump at the final flight, Fine By Me was quickly over a length clear of the SP Fav, and sealed victory in fine style with Robeam weakening into third place at the finish. Having trained multiple graded winners over obstacles in the 2021-22 season, notably with Guard Your Dreams and Wholestone, Nigel Twiston-Davies will be hoping Fine By Me continues to show improvement for the move into handicap company. We’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on him!
Race 2 – R W Hough & Sons Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle (Div. II) (Class 5, 4yo+, 2m 7f)
Favourite backers barely had a moment of worry throughout the second race of the afternoon, but 2/1F Lelantos still had to battle to win by 1 ½ lengths under Nathan Brennan for leading trainer Nicky Henderson. Leading from the outset, Lelantos set a steady gallop in the early stages, holding sway from the likes of Eightytwo Team and Mr Yeats on the inside rail. Looking towards mid and rear division, Gold Leader raced keenly and widest of all alongside Norman Kindu, with Corrany, Jovial Jack, and Robbie Dazzler completing the line-up towards the back of the pack. With little change to the running order throughout the first circuit, it wasn’t until the runners made their way towards the second-last flight that the race changed complexion. Jumping well out in front and putting the pressure on those behind to make a forward move, Lelantos looked set to fight out the finish a long way from home. However, as the six-year-old fiddled his way over the penultimate obstacle, a strong jump from both Mr Yeats and Norman Kindu to his outside threatened to scupper the party, with the trio quickly distancing themselves from the weakening opposition. Not to be denied though, Lelantos responded well for pressure to wrestle back his lead jumping the last and kicked on strongly to hold off the plucky Mr Yeats and the staying-on Robbie Dazzler, making ground from rear division to worry Norman Kindu out of third place. A trainer renowned for success at the highest level, Nicky Henderson trained an astonishing 10 Grade 1 winner in 2021-22, including with Marie’s Rock at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals for the same owners as Lelantos!
Race 3 – Close Brothers Mares’ Maiden Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)
For the second race in a row, the market leader provided the winning formula at Bangor-On-Dee, when the 4/5F Last Of A Legend stayed on well to win by 1 length for trainer Harry Fry. Keen to lead from the flag fall, Sam Twiston-Davies set an honest tempo aboard Call The Fairies in the early stages of the contest, closely followed by My Little Toni and Miss Chantelle. However, there was drama before an obstacle had even been negotiated when Morning Symphony near-refused to jump the first flight and dramatically unshipped her unfortunate jockey Gavin Sheehan to the turf. In mid-division, Last Of A Legend raced widely throughout, with Sorceress Medea, Run A Rig, and Country Kitten racing in a bunch behind the leaders a fair way ahead of the early stragglers. As the field negotiated their way over the third-last and Call The Fairies began to lose ground, a big move was made by the market leader Last Of A Legend to challenge for the lead with two hurdles left to jump. However, making a strong challenge out wide, Miss Chantelle soon served it up to the SP Fav jumping the second-last flight, with the pair kicking a couple of lengths clear of the staying-on Run A Rig from rear-division. However, game under pressure, Last Of A Legend produced a smart turn of foot to quickly pull just over a length clear of Miss Chantelle after the final obstacle and kept on well at the finish under Jonathan Burke’s urgings, with Run A Rig finishing an eye-catching third place. Fresh from the back of another successful season in the saddle, Burke also combined with Harry Fry to win two Grade 2s in 2021-22 aboard star mare Love Envoi, including in the Jane Seymour Mares Novices Hurdle at Sandown and the Dawn Run Mares Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival!
Race 4 – Clwyd Compounders Handicap Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 3 ½f)
Donald McCain was back in the groove after Race 4 when his striking grey Finisk River held off the late challenge of stablemate Blakeney Point to win as the 5/2F by only a neck, bringing up a 1-2 for the local trainer. Another to show up well from the outset, Finisk River set the early gallop, holding the lead from a line of challengers including Chasamax, Caddyhill, and Pateen. Closely bunched up in-behind the leading battalion, Anightinlambourn raced alongside Orchard Grove, followed by Samba Dancer and previous course winner Blakeney Point. As the runners made their way to the home turn, with many of those in rear struggling from a long way out, Finisk River still held sway coming towards the penultimate flight ahead of Orchard Grove and the staying-on Blakeney Point. With the trio looking set to fight out the places, Orchard Grove provided a stern challenge to the leader as the final obstacle loomed large. However, plucky and determined out in front, Finisk River just kept on galloping under the champion jockey Brian Hughes, and although only holding on by a neck to the valiant Blakeney Point, always looked in control at the finish; Orchard Grove eventually finished a close third place. A solid handicapper in his own right, Finisk River looks to be in good spirits for owner Les Buckley, who also owns another recruit based with Donald McCain named Fruit N Nut (a fellow Bangor-On-Dee winner) who has only been beaten once under rules so far!
Race 5 – Genesis Wealth Management Handicap Chase (Class 3, 4yo+, 3m)
The feature of race of the day provided a very impressive winner as 10/3 shot Neville’s Cross coasted clear of the opposition under Stan Sheppard to win by an ever-growing 7 lengths. Adopting his usual front-running tactics, veteran performer Mr Mafia jumped boldly from the front in the early stages of the contest, with Red Happy keeping him company out wide. Also keeping close tabs on the front pair, Diablo De Rouhet raced prominently with Neville’s Cross throughout, leaving El Paso Wood, Golden Taipan, and Organdi to race in rear division. As the tempo increased down the far side and Golden Taipan sent out distress signals, Mr Mafia (three years older than his next youngest rival) began to follow suit and soon weakened into mid-division. Swiftly taking over the lead, Red Happy was sent for home by Tom Scudamore with three fences left to negotiate, the duo soon separating themselves from the strong-travelling Neville’s Cross and Diablo De Rouhet in behind. However, coming towards the second-last fence, Stan Sheppard made his challenge aboard Neville’s Cross and quickly excelled into a narrow lead with only one more obstacle to go. Soaring over in smooth style, Neville’s Cross galloped on strongly from the back of the last, careering away up the run-in to victory, with Red Happy and Diablo De Rouhet toiling back in second and third place respectively. A deadly combination on their day, Stan Sheppard and Tom Lacey also combined to win the Betfair Hurdle (Grade 3 Handicap) at Newbury last season with the smart Glory And Fortune!
Race 6 – SG Estates Novices’ Chase (GBB Race) (Class 3, 4yo+, 2m 4 ½f)
Just the three runners went to post for the sixth race of the day, but it was the deadly duo of Hughes and McCain that prevailed once again when consistent chaser Geromino quickened smartly to win going away by 6 ½ lengths as the 11/8F. Keen to dictate matters at the head of affairs, Geromino took the early lead, jumping boldly throughout. Racing in second place and jumping erratically, Not At Present gave jockey Luca Morgan a tough time at many of his obstacles, but Time Flies By arguably caused the most drama when clattering through the seventh fence and relegated his jockey Jonjo O’Neill Jr to the floor, reducing the field down to two a long way from the finish. With Brian Hughes initiating an increase in tempo from Geromino after jumping the third-last, Not At Present appeared to be in danger of keeping up with the leader, quickly coming under strong pressure from Luca Morgan. Keeping on well having popped the penultimate fence, Geronimo soon sailed over the last and quickly settled the race in a matter of strides with Not At Present having nothing more to give back in second place. Not only was this yet another victory in the bag for reigning champion jockey Brian Hughes, but it was also Donald McCain’s 200th winner at Bangor-On-Dee since beginning his career as a trainer. Congratulations to Donald and the team on another fantastic achievement!
Race 7 – Chris Harrison Memorial Handicap Chase (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m 1 ½f)
The father/son combination of Peter and James Bowen proved to be a winning formula in the penultimate race of the afternoon when Shareef Star scooted clear to a 7-length victory from well fancied 13/8F Steady The Ship. Another keen to take the early initiative, Steady The Ship led the way for much of the contest, stalked by Nefyn Point in second place and the market leader Sea Prince in third place; bringing up the rear to complete the 5-runner field came Secret Boris and Shareef Star. Upon jumping the third-last having upped the ante, Steady The Ship drew a further couple of lengths clear of the field, with now only Sea Prince and Shareef Star for company having left the remainder well behind. However, travelling best of all having jumped the penultimate fence sandwiched between his rivals, Shareef Star oozed class and quickly drew clear of the opposition on his way to the final fence. Soaring over with ease, James Bowen took a sneaky glance in-behind aboard Shareef Star only to find himself in an unassailable lead, leaving Sea Prince to steal the silver medal by a neck from long-time leader Steady The Ship. No strangers to success at Bangor-On-Dee, the Peter and James Bowen combination has also proved successful at Market Rasen in recent years, winning back-to-back Summer Plate’s with staying chaser Francky Du Berlais in 2021 and 2022!
Race 8 – Castle Mews Handicap Hurdle (Class 5, 3yo+, 2m ½f)
The easiest winner of the day came in the final race of the afternoon when Long Call destroyed his rivals by a growing 14 lengths at odds of 17/2 for talented dual-licence trainer Tony Carroll. The early pace was set by recent winning machine Hey Bob in Race 8, kept in close company by Copper Fox on his inside, Montaqem in third place, ahead of Long Call, George Mallory, and 11/4F Pawpaw in mid-division. Racing towards the second-last flight of hurdles with little change to the running order, Hey Bob still held sway rounding the home turn, followed closest by the strong travelling Long Call and 40/1 outsider Faro. However, not content to sit behind the leader any longer, Jamie Moore pushed the button aboard Long Call and quickly swept to a lead of more than 2 lengths having jumped the penultimate obstacle, with Hey Bob having nothing more to give and rapidly weakening through the field. Barely asked a question, Long Call showed plenty of zest to kick further and further clear before pinging the final hurdle with Moore only needing to look over his shoulder to realise the manner of the inevitable victory. Rallying well to steal back second place, Copper Fox was a minor eye-catcher ahead of Faro in third place, but neither could live with the very impressive winner. Fresh from his best season in the saddle to date, Jamie Moore looks on the right path to repeated last year’s tally, a tally which included a Grade 1 aboard Porticello and a Grade 2 aboard Goshen!
Race report by Adam Perkins